There is more teaching material in the Conan O’Brien concussion. Where to start? How about with his own words:
“In that moment I saw stars but I tried to keep going. I honestly don’t remember this part, but I tried to stand up and I couldn’t stand up, and I tried to throw to a replay, which I did.”
Clearly amnesia and also some evidence that the motor part of his brain isn’t communicating fully with the part that is trying to control his actions.
Couldn’t stand up? Could be a number of explanations, but it could also be from damage to his vestibular system, the part of the inside of our brain/inner ear that manages our balance system. A topic for a whole series of blogs, but for current reference check out http://vestibulardisorder.com
He continued to explain:
“I kind of couldn’t speak. I thanked Teri Hatcher, and I don’t remember any of this.”
More amnesia, but without obvious signs of disorientation. He did what he would have been expected to do, what his conditioning trained him to do, like a quarterback.
“I went into my dressing room, changed my suit, they blow dried my hair real fast, I sat at the desk, the audience is sitting here just like they are now, the band’s playing, and they hand me a blue card and I’m sitting here looking at the Seth MacFarlane card, and I look up at my producer Jeff Ross and Dan Ferguson, and I say, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know what this is.” It was like a menu for an Egyptian restaurant. I mean it might as well have been. “
The further it gets from the time of the event, the poorer he is functioning. The more thought and memory that is required to continue, the less he is on auto-pilot, the harder it gets. This is not like a boxing match, where we are conditioned to believe that if the knocked down fighter survives the round, he may come back and win the fight. Brain injuries are thought to get better not worse. In reality, in the first 24-72 hours, they often get worse. The diagnosis of a brain injury is easier at 5 hours than at 5 minutes, if the right questions are asked.
In our next blog, some of the right questions.